Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!!!! There are four teams left who shouldn’t really be here. By rights and all the hackneyed ‘big club’ nonsense that pervades through all leagues, Tipton, Hythe, Poole, and Leiston are all 6 promotions away from a football league place. Frankly, it’s WAY OFF. But herein lies why we love the FA Cup. They are but 90 minutes away from a shot at the big chaps. If they win and draw (for example) Basingstoke Town (absolutely no disrespect intended) they will be gutted. It’s almost certain defeat without the big pay day they had hoped for. But yet they still will have got to the 1st Round Proper of the FA Cup. The oldest club competition in the world. They should not be down hearted in any way except financial. And even that is no shame because they will have netted a season or mores worth of funding by getting there, a great achievement. So, who are we going to preview this round? Sheffield FC .v. Tipton Town (Evostick Division 1 South 19th .v. Midland Football Alliance – 1st) We have to start with Sheffield FC. We’d so hoped to be able to get up there but circumstances dictate otherwise. We’d happily see either team go through but having spoken to the excellent Ian Feeley of Sheffield in the last round, we do have a soft spot for them. A tie against Sheffield Wednesday in round one would be just reward after the replays they’ve been through to get here but Tipton Town will be crossing everything for a similar local tie against Walsall. And they are certainly not going to be easy to beat. Effectively, only 3 places separate the teams in the pyramid so Sheffield cannot take this for granted but they are difficult to put away. It won’t be lost on either team that they are both among the lowest placed half dozen sides left in and this is as good a chance that either will get to reach the propers in a while. As we said in the last round, Sheffield have made the quarters in the amateur period of the game but haven’t got to the propers since 1880. Tipton’s FA Cup experience is but a few years old and until this season the furthest they’d got was to the 1st Qualifying Round. They’ve already exceeded that by 3 rounds! Their first defeat of the season on Tuesday night couldn’t really have come at a worse time. Until that time they’d won 16 of their 19 games in 2010/11. Leiston .v. Dartford Primarily known as the main access point to Sizewell nuclear power station, Leiston is also famous as the home of the first ‘free school’ where kids run amok and do as they please. Actually, no, it is just a democratic, curriculum-free process of open thinking rather than set ‘lessons’. We could use this as an Ajax-school analogy of how Leiston play but we’ve never watched them. They sound good though, they sit just off the pace in the Ridgeons League but with many games in hand thanks to their cup exploits. Dartford, on the other hand, we have seen, and they’re a good side. Beaten comfortably in the end last season by Chelmsford, but largely thanks to finishing and lack of experience in big games. They got picked off on the break and then dominated, exuberance and passion not beating good old fashioned class on this occasio. Dartford’s ground was our favourite of last season though and our trip there one of our most memorable. So, in the event of a replay it’s well worth a visit. The quaint quarters of town and theatre school make it slightly more bohemian than you might imagine. Poole Town .v. Hayes & Yeading United (Wessex Premier League 1st .v. Blue Square Premier – 20th) Poole and Bournemouth are essentially two halves of the same town so if Poole can get through then their preferred choice of ties would be against their high Howe-led neighbours. Poole have a decent history in the FA Cup. They have taen QPR and Watford to replays over the years but the zenith was in 1926 when they were beaten 3-1 by Everton and a legendary Dixie Dean hatrick in front of 65,000 people. Hayes & Yeading’s superiority over Poole extends to four divisions, the greatest in the round. It would take four promotions for Poole to get into the same league but, as they are top of the Wessex League and H&Y are only just outside the Blue Square Premier relegation zone, maybe there is hope? Poole are not only top of the league but have a fearsome strike force. Steve Smith and Russell Cook have scored 28 goals between them so far this season and H&Y ‘keeper Lee Harrison might have his hands full. Former Barnet, Fulham, Leyton Orient and Peterborough keeper is nearing the end of his playing career and has already been coaching for 5 years. Now a qualified UEFA ‘A’ coach for, oddly, we thought, for outfield play, he is soon to qualify as a goalkeeping coach. We had hoped to speak to Lee but he was busy doing his other job coaching the Daggers. Hythe Town .v. Staines Town (Kent Premier League 6th .v. Blue Square South 14th) What to say? Does the Hythe manager’s pre-match note sum up modern football or what? The biggest game in the Kent League club’s recent history and ‘the league is the priority but the cup is a great diversion’. *Sigh* He’s right, of course, but with £12,500 riding on the game and a manager’s lot being so short-term these days, should he not be focusing completely on the Cup? As much as we love the FA Cup it’s a fair point, Hythe have the best attendances in the league and they could cope with a step up, particularly if they win their games in hand and go top of the league. Unfortunately for Hythe, Staines have been THE lower league team to annoy the league teams in recent years. Stockport nearly felt their wrath in 2007 and in 2009 they beat Shrewsbury and took Millwall to a replay. If they’re lucky, Hythe could add Staines’ scalp to the 2000 skulls stored in St Leonards church in the town. The rest of the fixtures are on the FA website. If we weren;t London bound we’d be off to Sheffield. If we weren’t, we’d go for Mossley .v. Darlington, Farnborough .v. Dover or Cambridge .v. Lewes. As it is, we’re heading south to Carshalton to watch them take Caroline Barker’s clarets of Chelmsford well and truly to the cleaners. COME ON CARSHALTON! Not a phrase you’ll hear too often!
4th Qualifying Round
A memorable night for Wombles fans as AFC romp into the propers despite being down to 10 men for half of the match.
A large crowd saw AFC Wimbledon earn a replay with Crawley Town.
We get lucky as the weather ruins the game we were due to go and see but failed, choosing instead to visit Crawley Town to see Havant take on the Sussex side.